I Found You by Lisa Jewell

lisaWhat I thought:

Alice lives in a cottage in a Yorkshire seaside town overlooking the beach with her three children. One rainy day she observes a man sitting on the beach all day, alone, without a coat and when she goes to speak to him she discovers he has no memory of who he is or where he has come from. Alice invites Frank (as her youngest daughter names him) to stay with her as a lodger for a while until he remembers something about himself.

Meanwhile, in London, Lily is newly married and has only been in the UK for 10 days (from the Ukraine) and still very much in the honeymoon stage so when her husband doesn’t return from work she sets about tracking him down.

The story alternates between Alice and Lily and also back to the same seaside town in 1993 where teenagers Kirsty and Gray are holidaying with their parents. On the beach they meet the handsome, enigmatic and intense Mark who befriends Kirsty before their holiday ends in a tragedy that nobody saw coming. We, the readers, are left to piece together all three strands of the book and work out how they are all linked.

The pacing was good and the momentum more than sufficient to carry me through with building curiosity and intrigue. I found the characters all believable and actually likeable in most cases, particularly the two female leads – Alice, with her chaotic life, is unapologetically human and flawed but someone I felt like I would want to know and Lily who has a fragility that made me worry for her  but also a determination that made me cheer her on.

Verdict:

I did really enjoy this book. It was an easy and compelling read that flows well and works enough intrigue into the plot to keep a high level of interest.

Have you read this or anything else by Lisa Jewell? What are your thoughts?

 

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The Book Whisperers Top Reads of 2016

2016 has been kind of an odd year for me and, I can’t lie, one I’ll be glad to see the back of. But the good news is that it’s over now and onwards and upwards. I’m devouring books again and resurrecting this blog (that has been semi-neglected for too long).

I’ve definitely got my reading mojo back, particularly in the second half of this year, and have read some really amazing books. The ones I have picked as my favourite are for a mixutre of reasons: they were real page-turners, they resonated with me in ways I didn’t expect, they were real comfort reads and just what I needed at the time.

In no particular order, the books I have picked out for my favourite reads of 2016 are:

 

five-riversFive Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain by Barney Norris

This has to be my wow book of the year. I thought the premise sounded interesting but was totally unprepared for how it would make me feel. I found this book is enchanting, mesmerising and beautiful and was absolutely blown away by it. In fact, I still think about it now. An author that really understands what it is to be human. Highly recommended. Read my full review here.

 

 

book-5Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

This was a book club choice that I probably wouldn’t have picked up for myself otherwise (which is exactly what I love about book clubs – they force you out of your comfort zone and introduce you to new authors and genres). Station Eleven is a dystopian novel that is set (for the most part) 20 years after the end of the world as we know it (due to a flu virus that wipes out 98% of the world’s population). What I really loved about this book is the way that it was written without sentimentality, almost matter of fact. I found it really refreshing. The story made me think and ask myself lots of questions about what I would do and I found it really engrossing read.

 

book-9Angela Marsons – all of them!

My new favourite author crush featuring my new favourite Detective crush. Crime fiction is probably my favourite genre and in a sea of crime and psychological thrillers (some of which are fantastic and some of which are mediocre at best), to find a brand new author and fall in love with the entire series is really exciting! I actually read The Lost Girls (book 3) first and promptly went right to be the beginning (Silent Scream) and read all 5 in two weeks. D.I. Kim Stone is a delight to read about (her feistiness and dry wit had me laughing out loud) and in the whole series (currently 5 books , there is not a dud among them). Angela Marsons has been signed up for a total of 16 books in this series and I, for one, cannot wait to read them all. I will be taking part in the Blog Tour for Book 2, Evil Games, in Feb so keep an eye out for that. You can read my review of Blood Lines here and if you haven’t yet discovered this series, what are you waiting for?

 

book-6Our Song by Dani Atkins

I read this book on a 9 day, 120 mile hike on the Cleveland Way in March. I did the walk on my own, just me and a large rucksack, staying in B&B’s and barns overnight and walking all day. When I was feeling battered, broken and weary once arriving at my nightly destination I read Our Song while laid in bed before dropping off into a deep slumber. This was the perfect book for me right then – gentle and heart-warming and just what I needed. I have read several other of Dani Atkin’s books and have loved them all.For a real feel-good, magical read, these books are just the ticket.

 

book-3When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen

This was a holiday read for me and a perfect page-turning one. As psychological thrillers go, this is one of my favourites. Five work colleagues, a murder (but you don’t know who or who committed it) and several different view-points that keep you guessing right until the end. And what I love most is that I didn’t guess! It could just be that I have read so many psychological thrillers that I can usually guess the outcome, when I come across one that still catches me out I love it! Clever and gripping.

 

 

book-4Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

A life lived over and over again, but with different outcomes. What a clever plot device. Ursula is born, then she dies, she is born again and dies slightly later, she is born again and so on… Ursula witnesses some of the most important events of the last century, living through (usually, anyway) two world wars, friendships, deaths, and hardship. This book is imaginative, bittersweet, poignant and very ambitious but it works.

 

 

kliing-2The Killing Game by J.S. Carol

What a page-turner. I read this on holiday and couldn’t put it down. A gunman in a Hollywood restaurant that is frequented by the A-List and the rich and famous who are all taken hostage, and who lives and who dies is often a game of chance. Adrenalin-fuelled, twisty-turny and intense. Brilliant.

Read my full review here.

 

 

 

book-8Summer at the Lake by Erica James

I absolutely loved this book. It was everything I needed: friendship, nostalgia, and pure indulgence. Three people are thrown together in a split second and what follows is a tale of new friendships in both Oxford and Lake Como in Italy (which  is a place I have been to and it brought back wonderful memories). Warm, engaging, and like meeting up with old friends every time I picked it up, so much so I didn’t want it to end.

 

 

So there it is – my list of favourite books this year. There are lots more that I thoroughly enjoyed but these get my vote for being in the right place at the right time and wowing me, soothing me and inspiring me.

Have you read any of these books and if so, what did you think? What are your favourite books of 2016?

Finally, wishing you all a wonderful, happy, healthy 2017 filled with books and more books!

 

 

Thanks for bearing with me

Thanks for “bearing” with me while I’ve been AWOL

 

I’ve been a naughty girl. Not only have I been missing in action but I didn’t even post to let you know. My reasonsexcuses are that I’ve been on holiday (to The Gambia – amazing place!) and have been unwell recently and am still having to have some time off work (nothing serious, but enough that I have been a mixture of lazy and no energy to post).

I have so much to catch up on including photos of The Gambia and also 12 book reviews which I promise to get round to very soon.

Upcoming reviews will be:

 

Dead Scared by S J Bolton

I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

You Before Me by Jojo Moyes

A Life Without Limits by Chrissie Wellington

Where Angels Fear to Tread by E M Forster

Blind Fury by Lynda La Plante

The Thread by Victoria Hislop

Gillespie and I by Jane Harris

Split Second by Cath Staincliffe

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

Tideline by Penny Hancock

Pure by Andrew Miller

 

Thanks for still hanging around – I really appreciate that there have been so many hits on my blog since I did a runner despite there being no new posts for a month.

 

It’s good to be back! 🙂

 

 

Divergent by Veronica Roth

In three words:

Dystopian, violent, bravery

 

 

What I thought:

Up until about a week ago I hadn’t even heard of this book. Then I saw that it had won both Best YA book and Best Book of 2011 on Goodreads as voted by the members. I was curious about this book that hadn’t reached my radar yet and upon reading the reviews discovered that it was being hailed as the new Hunger Games (which is one of my all-time favourite books). A day or so later I happened to be in a bookshop (what are the chances? Okay, I jest, I am almost a permanent fixture in bookshops) and saw a copy of Divergent staring out at me from the shelves and I just had to have it.

Before I comment on my thoughts I will briefly outline the plot for those, like I was, are unfamiliar with it: This is a world sometime in the future and set in a city that I believe was once Chicago (as the now-abandoned Sears Tower is based there). Every person in this city belongs to one of five factions: Abnegation (selflessness), Erudite (learning), Amity (kindness), Candor (honesty) or Dauntless (bravery). Beatrice Prior (or Tris as she becomes known) is a member of Abnegation and the book starts with the day that she and every other 16 year old from all factions undergo a test to see which faction they will belong to from then on: if they chose a faction other than the one that they were born into it means betraying their families and potentially never seeing them again). However, Tris’s test doesn’t turn out quite as she had expected as her results mean that she could choose one of 3 factions. She is told in confidence that this is because she is a Divergent but she must not tell anyone, even her family, as this is an extremely dangerous thing to be. On the day of the choosing ceremony, Tris abandons her family to join the Dauntless faction and that is where the adventure starts.

I thought the idea of this was brilliant and I was excited to find out about the factions and how Tris’s choice to join Dauntless would affect her. However, the more I read the more disillusioned I became: I never felt that I got a proper sense of the city or why it was like that or why the factions had come about and I would have liked to have learnt more. Also, as the book moved along I became more and more frustrated at why each person would only fit into one of the factions; afterall I don’t know anyone who is honest but can’t be kind or intelligent with it or brave but can’t be honest etc. I would expect that the majority of people would fit into more than one category – I certainly would; in fact I think I could fit into all of them (except Dauntless ironically – particularly after reading what they had to go through).

As well as some other minor annoyances, I did have one huge dislike too and that was the violence that went on for chapters and chapters. Each faction had to train its new recruits to pass an initiations (and those who fail are kicked out and become known as factionless and have to live on the streets), and despite knowing that the Dauntless faction was all about bravery, I found most of their training completely over the top and unsavoury to read. Fighting each other until someone passes out, throwing knives at each other, almost killing someone to test their mettle: I accept that some of this may have been necessary to show us what they recruits had to go through but for it to go on for so long and to be so brutal left a really bad taste in my mouth.

I would really have liked to know more about the other factions and how the city came to be like this but we got little information about anything outside the Dauntless compound until the end. Is this just in one city? Are there other cities exactly the same with their own compounds and set of factions? None of that was even addressed, never mind answered. I know this is the first book in a trilogy so maybe some of this will be answered in the future books, but even a little teaser or snippets of info would have been good.

Despite my little rants, I sort of enjoyed this book. I understand that it is the debut novel written by a 23 year old and that has to be commended. I hope that the books become tighter and more polished as the series continues and I am curious enough to want to read them to see what happens.

Verdict: Some major disappointments and it certainly is no Hunger Games (not in my mind at least). Aside from my ramblings though, it is still a fast-paced adventure story and should appeal to the masses.

(Source: I bought this book myself)

 

Miracle on Regent Street by Ali Harris

In three words:

Vintage, magical, nostalgic

What I thought:

♪ ♫ Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…♪ ♫

What a wonderful book to read in the run up to Christmas. I have just been swept away on a tide of vintage clothes, soaps and old-school glamour.

Miracle on Regent Street is about Evie Taylor, the stockroom girl at Hardy’s – a 100 year old department store in London – and despite feeling that her talents should lie on the shop floor, she is completely invisible to anyone else who works there (OK, she’s not exactly invisble as oposed to blending into the background so much that the entire staff still call her Sarah which is the name of her predecessor of two years before). One day, right at the beginning of December, Evie overhears a conversation between the owner of Hardy’s and her manager, and it horrified to realise that if Hardy’s fortunes don’t turn around before Boxing Day they will all be out of jobs. What follows is Evie’s secret attempt to turn the shop around before Christmas, with a little help from some rather unexpected corners – Sam the delivery boy, Lily from the tea-shop who still dresses as though she’s going to a tea dance from the good old days, Felix the security guard and a couple of eastern european cleaners. I loved the whole cast of characters in this book, and despite wanting to shout at Evie for not standing up for herself (I’m not one for keeping my mouth shut if something bugs me at work ;)), I still found her engaging and routed for her and her friends throughout.

One of the things I loved about this book was the wonderful nostalgic trip through a long-ago age where shop assistants spent time with customers, women were made to feel like women and a trip to the department store was a special treat. The transformation of the store through Evie and her secret elves made me long to be part of that world and I could see this wonderful place so clearly in my mind that I wanted to wander round the stalls and browse through the gold compacts, crystal perfume bottles and vintage peep-toe shoes (and this from someone who is not remotely a girly girl!); I wanted to glide down the huge wooden staircase and pick up the handbags, trilbys and corsets and then pop into the tearoom for tea and cake, red lipstick and stockings firmly in place.

I do love a chicklit book now and then, but I have to say that this is one of the most sophisticated that I have read; it didn’t have the cheesiness or sickliness of some and instead it had old fashioned glamour, romance, wit and warmth and it was a delight to read.

Verdict: If you are looking for a christmassy feel-good read then please, please look no further than this book. It is a real treat.

 

(Source: I received this book for review from Simon & Schuster)

 

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

In three words:

Magical, spellbinding, beautiful

 

 

What I thought:

This book is truly magical. It hooked me from page one and did not let me go until I closed the final pages, and it was with a heavy heart that I said goodbye to this wonderful place and its small cast of characters.

Jack and Mabel arrive in Alaska in 1920 to make a new home for themselves and to get away from the terrible heartache of losing their only child at birth ten years before. Their sense of loss and grief is palpable and their sadness at realising that they are also losing each other is felt clearly through those opening pages. Just as things seem to be coming to a head, Jack and Mabel – in a rare moment of companionship – build a snowgirl together when the first snows of that winter arrive at their homestead. They dress it in mittens and a scarf and use the juice of berries to give some colour to its lips. The next morning, not only is their snowgirl gone, but there are little footprints leading away from the mound of snow and the couple start to be convinced that they have seen a little girl in a blue coat dashing between the trees in the snow, followed by a red fox.

What follows is a truly captivating and spell-binding tale of a little girl, who we come to find out is called Faina, and her place in the rebuilding of the lives of Jack and Mabel. As the elderly couple open their hearts once again, Mabel remembers a book that her father used to read to her when she was a child: a snow child that appears at the house of a childless couple and, despite many re-tellings and different endings over the years, always ends with the little girl melting back into the snow, and Mabel comes to dread the day that Faina will leave them too.  Faina herself is not quite tamable and always slightly out of reach of the couple and it is through her that the reader is treated to such a feast of beauty and nature and landscape. Just wondferful.

Istill can’t quite believe that this is a debut novel and beacuse of this, I cannot wait to see what else she comes up with in the future. The Snow Child isn’t released until 12th February 2012 but I just had to review it right now and yell that you MUST, MUST, MUST get yourself a copy of this book when it is out – run to the shops!  

Verdict: Wow, just wow. My favourite book of 2011 and I am head over heels in love with it.

 

(Source: I received a review copy of this book from Amazon Vine)

 

 

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

In three words:

Quirky, clever, riddle

 

 

What I thought:

What a strange yet strangely appealing book from this Japanese author, Keigo Higashino. I have read several novels by Japanese authors over the years and they have all had similar styles in that they have been sparsely written with barely a word wasted, yet they have all packed an almighty punch (without even trying it somehow seems). The Devotion of Suspect X is a clever crime book. There is a murder but no blood and gutts, a crime but no evidence. The killing takes place in the first few pages of the book and we all know straight away who did it: what happens immediately afterwards is what keeps the reader on their toes.

The story is centred around Yasuko, a single mum who works in a lunch-box shop and whos unsavoury ex-husband tries to worm his way back into her life. Within pages, said ex-husband is dead and entering from stage left is strange nextdoor neighbour Ishigami, who is a genius mathemetician with rather a large crush on Ysasuko. On the case of the body dumped in an oil drum by the river is Tokyo  Detective Kusangi who vents his frustrations about the case to friend Yukawa who happens to be a genius physician and whom knew Ishigami at University. What follows is clash of the geniuses: not in an action-packed, race-against-time way, but more like a battle of brains over a quiet game of chess. While this was a great way to help the reader unravel what happened, I have to admit that about ¾ of the way through the book I started to become a little bored with the perpetual cat-and-mouse game between Yukawa and Ishigami: I remember sighing and uttering “get on with it” at one point. However, not long after I was rewarded with an almighty wollop at the end that I didn’t see coming. And then, just as I’d relaxed again, I was left staring at an ending that made my mouth go into this shape….. O

Verdict: Quirky, surprising and rewarding.

(Source: I bought this book myself)